Posts Tagged ‘When In Rome’

A debate erupted the other day about the Southern custom of children addressing their elders with “Mrs./Ms./Miss” or “Mr.” followed by the person’s last name, such as “Mr. Boudreaux” (unless otherwise instructed to use the first instead of last name after the title, as in “Mr. Bubba”).

The debate occurred in a seminar here in the Deepest of the Deep South with a facilitator from Michigan. The seminar was about parenting.

A lady in the back asked how this expert would address parents and families who run across the following scenario:

Grandson from the StarNorth comes to visit in the South. Grandma wants to take him to church and around town; grandson is not in the habit of addressing his elders with expected titles. Grandmother instructs him in what social graces are expected.

Grandson is a good sport and uses expected titles, but grandson’s parents (primarily the non-Southern parent) go ballistic when they learn that Grandmother has “brainwashed” grandson into using expected titles during his visit.

Parents’ ire stems from the non-Southern and non-military perspective that using titles is archaic, insulting and infers some level of demeaning patronization.

Grandmother’s argument was, “When in Rome…” which is what she tried to teach grandson, who got it.

Parents didn’t agree and felt Grandmother was undermining the way they had raised him.

Thus, another lovely family conflict went down in the books, providing the profession of family therapists added job security.

I sincerely hope I haven’t ticked off and scared away my commenters by using titles – culturally speaking here, it is a form of utmost respect and honor, which is of course is my intention.

In my daily life, both at home, work and at my children’s schools, little folks get in a little trouble for NOT using expected titles. I have raised my children to do so based on local custom (as well as not wanting to get a call in the middle of the day from the school informing me that my child is in detention for disrespect).

I will qualify this by saying that working with seriously disturbed children sometimes involves being the target of new and improved epithets which are anything but respectful. These children have exponentially expanded my vocabulary well beyond what my SAT and GRE scores ever reflected.

Amazingly, however, these epithets are almost ALWAYS surrounded by expected titles.

Why, just the other day a very young chap (age 7) from the ‘hood spat at me, “F%&# you, Mrs. Muse!” (this, because I handed down a 2-page therapeutic writing assignment addressing said chap’s choice to create a two-foot hole in the wall from a hearty set of donkey-kicks).

Anyway, the Michigan facilitator sided with Grandmother and her “When in Rome…” reasoning.

But what do we do on the internet when Rome is everywhere for everyone?

And how would you tackle this family conundrum, if you were the grandmother? or the parents?

StarNorth (according to the lady) = Oklahoma

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